A Joel White Haven 12 1/2 launched at the Boatbuilding Academy

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John  Watson and Dave Snelling’s 12 1/2 Haven on student launch day in December

John Watson and build partner Dave Snelling built the Joel White Haven 12 1/2 version of Nat Herreschoff’s 12 1/2 Buzzard’s Bay Boy’s Boat during their course at the Builtbuilding Academy, reports principal Yvonne Green.

While the original design has a full keel, the Joel White version has a centreboard, making it possible to bring the boat into  shallow waters and easier to trailer. The boat is Douglas fir strip planked and sheathed in glass fibre, has a cast lead ballast keel, and is 15ft 11in in length with a beam of 6ft 1in.

Neither John nor David were doing practical work before they came on the course at Lyme – for the last thirty years John has worked in corporate law in America, while Dave, although he worked in the marine industry at the beginning of his career, has been working in IT. Yvonne says the boat was quite an achievement, but John and Dave were incredibly focused on the course and worked steadily to complete it in the six months they had on the main workshop floor.

Bergius cruising dinghy Dodo on show at the National Maritime Museum, London

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Dodo – click on the thumbnails for larger photos

Currently on show at the National Maritime Museum, Dodo was built and designed by 19-year old William Bergius and his younger brother Walter in Glasgow, in 1896.

Fitted with a removable keel of 50kg, she was the first of a series of boats by that name belonging to the Bergius’s, and seems to have been built with camp-cruising in mind. In 1897, a very confident young William wrote the the editor of The Yachtsman in the following terms:

‘Sir – I have read with great interest the letters regarding “Multum in Parvo” cruisers, and cannot help thinking that most of your correspondents want far too big a boat. Last year my brother and I built a boat in which, despite the small size, we can easily sleep three.’

Dodo is quite a big boat in a small length: she’s 14ft 6in in length, 5ft 4in in beam and a draft of 2ft 4in with her keel attached, and with a sail area of no less than 150sqft in a low-profile gaff-rigged mainsail and roller-mounted jib; despite her fairly hard bilges amidships (they’re less hard towards the stern) and small keel she will have been an energetic performer. William Bergius deserves our admiration for creating such a useful little boat.

I don’t think anyone would build a small keelboat like this for open-boat cruising now, but looking at Dodo, I kept thinking I’d seen something a little like her more recently, and now I think I’ve worked out what it was. Take a peek at John  Welsford’s Pilgrim drawings, and see what you think – of course much has changed, but some things – including the rig, generous freeboard and use of a sensible half-decked arrangement decks – are not so very different. Of course, if I wanted a boat to go cruising in myself, I’d take the modern conveniences and comforts of John’s boat every time.

Finally just to show the world what fabulous buildings the museum occupies, I’ve added two more shots for readers’ entertainment.

The Royal Observatory from the NMM’s colonnades; the NMM buildings, the Palladian-style Queen’s House and the Old Royal Naval College with the River Thames and the Isle of Dogs beyond

William Atkin’s sweet Vintage dinghy

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Dave Clemmer’s Magic Wing, built to William Atkin’s Vintage plans

Some boats start from a special place, even before the designer or builder begins to sketch out their lines, and so it was with Vintage, a 10-foot sailing dinghy drawn by Willam Atkin in October 1919 for Thomas Fleming Day.

Day remains a well known figure and was hugely in his day: for many years he edited the famous Rudder magazine, and famously gave low-cost cruising a huge boost by crossing the Atlantic in a small chine-hulled cruising boat, Seabird. (Click here for an earlier post about a William Atkin cruising boat design based on the Seabird.)

William Atkin, whose name in boat designing is almost a by-word for ‘wholesome’, wrote this of her: ‘… she is a burdensome little packet… a round-bilge, lapstrake boat… From keel to masthead, stem to stern, Vintage was designed precisely as suggested by Captain Day. He had in view a nicely balanced boat which would sail well, row easily and, at the same time, be in her element under the urge of an outboard motor; a small one, of course’.

The boat pictured above is owned by Dave Clemmer and I understand largely built by Eric Hvalsoe.

Maritime weblinks guru John Kohnen has spent some time with the boat and likes it:

‘I’m quite impressed with Dave Clemmer’s Vintage, Magic Wing. It’s a Good Boat. Last year at Port Townsend Dave took me out in her, and with two big guys aboard she sailed well and felt quite safe – even when Dave stood up to fool with the rig. This year Dave let me steal her and go out by myself. He’d just acquired a set of light, balanced spoon oars and she rowed like a dream… She moved along pretty good for a 10ft dinghy… Magic Wing is a little boat, but big enough to be used as a real boat, not just a tender. Billy A did good!’

Dave also got in touch to point the way to a splendid Flickr photo set of Magic Wing’s construction, and to lend his support for the Vintage design:

‘The Vintage is an excellent little 10-footer, is great as a tender, and is decent for one person to go on multi day adventures with camping and anchoring gear. She is a very stable and safe boat for her size. For sailing, the Vintage actually likes a lot of wind. She turns on a dime. I haven’t come close yet to capsizing her, and I’ve yet to feel the need to reef (I’m sure I’ve been in 20+ knot winds on some occasions). I find her rather slow in terms of sailing speed, but I’m sure I’m expecting too much for a 10 footer for speed. The Vintage does very well rowing with one person in the boat, and can keep up with longer boats (as Eric can attest). Rowing with more than one person (once the transom dips into the water) is considerably slower.’

Eric Hvalsoe’s email to me agreed with much of what Dave had to say – though he argued that Magic Wing’s speed under oars might owe something to Dave’s strong arm and posh oars – and added that there is some narrative about building Magic Wing on his web site http://hvalsoe-boats.com/ (from the opening page, look for a link to archives). However, he adds a small caution: ‘Vintage should not be mistaken for an easy build,’ he says. ‘I believe we made several improvements in construction detail over the information provided by Atkin.’


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